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VOL. 129 | NO. 83 | Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Best of Three

Grizzlies need road win in roller-coaster series with Thunder

By Don Wade

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After the Game 3 victory in overtime, Tony Allen made it plain that the Grizzlies were all about stopping Oklahoma City stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Reggie Jackson’s surprising performance for Oklahoma City Saturday gave the Thunder the win and a 2-2 series tie heading into Tuesday’s Game 5 in Oklahoma City.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Allen said the game plan was to “make the Derek Fishers of the world” beat them.

Fisher did no harm in Game 4, but another reserve guard, Reggie Jackson, went for a career-high 32 points as the Thunder won 92-89 in overtime to even their first-round Western Conference playoff series at 2-2.

As the series returns to Oklahoma City for Game 5 at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, several trends bear watching. Including Jackson getting out of his funk.

“He took advantage of the pick-and-roll,” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said. “He was able to split and get into the paint and to the rim. We have to have our focus on their two superstars, but also on Reggie. He is their third scorer.”

The Thunder shot under 40 percent in Game 2 and Game 3 losses, and in the victory in Game 4. And Durant and Westbrook have struggled to score with any efficiency. In fact, in Game 4, they each had just 15 points, so their combined total of 30 was less than Jackson had alone.

Durant and Westbrook shot a combined 11-for-45 in Game 4, but the Thunder survived that, in part, because Durant and Westbrook had 13 and nine rebounds, respectively, and four and seven assists.

“I tell them all the time, if you only think you can impact a game scoring, we’re not going to be successful,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “You impact the game many, many different ways. We’re built on defense; we’re built on teamwork.”

Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph was huge in the Game 2 overtime victory as he scored a team-high 25 points and shot 50 percent from the floor. But in the last two games, he is 10-for-34 with 16 points in Game 3 and just 11 in Game 4.

“Our bigs do a great job forcing him out (away from the basket),” Durant said. “He’s a load down there.”

Mike Conley or Courtney Lee will need to increase their point production to take control of the series. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Memphis coach Dave Joerger said Randolph needs to start closer to the basket to account for the Thunder’s tactics.

“On his initial down the floor if he gets pushed out to 12 feet, then he gets pushed out to 18 feet,” Joerger said. “Ball movement is always good, where other guys are a threat. And then he gets duck-ins or advance passes and post-ups from there.”

Said Randolph: “When I’m catching, they’re coming.”

Conley said: “We gotta try to get some motion with the ball movement from side to side. So when the ball does come back to him he gets it in a better position closer to the basket. He’s been having to work too hard to get to his spot.”

Although Conley had a double-double in Game 4 with 14 points and 10 assists, he was just 5-for-16 from the field and was 0-for-6 from 3-point range. For the series, he is 2-for-20 from beyond the arc (10 percent). The Thunder did their best job yet of hawking Conley all over the floor in Game 4 as he never seemed to have room to breathe even when he somehow got to the rim and finished.

“We need to get Mike Conley off the ball sometimes,” Joerger said, adding later, “There’s a high level of familiarity with each other. They’re not doubling Zach as much; they’re playing him straight up. We’re doing some things to Durant and Westbrook and they’re doing things to Mike Conley. We know each other really well.”

Or as the Thunder’s Caron Butler said after Game 4: “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

Still another pattern: The Thunder have out-rebounded Memphis in every game. And in Game 4, when the Thunder won the boards 58-49, they also grabbed 20 offensive rebounds.

“Russell Westbrook (five offensive rebounds) came in and got a couple of heartbreakers,” Joerger said.

What was a best-of-seven series is now the best two out of three and the math is simple: The Grizzlies have to win at least one in Oklahoma City if they are to have a chance to advance to the next round.

“They obviously want to win at home,” Conley said. “We got other plans. We have to go in there with the mindset we had in Game 2 and try to steal it.”

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